Dr. Julia Rafal-Baer

Julia Rafal-Baer, Ph.D., has dedicated her career to helping all children achieve their potential. After beginning her career as a special education teacher in the Bronx nearly two decades ago, Dr. Rafal-Baer is now a top education advisor who leads high-performance, high-impact organizations nationwide. She is a trusted confidante to the nation’s most effective state education leaders and superintendents, directly coaching over thirty leaders into the superintendent and state commissioner roles, 80 percent are leaders of color and 60 percent are women.

Dr. Rafal-Baer is the co-founder and Managing Partner of ILO Group, a women-founded, education strategy and policy firm. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr. Rafal-Baer served as a top education advisor to school districts and state education agencies across the country and as an expert advisor to the COVID Collaborative. She also supported a national effort to safely reopen schools, accelerate learning, and strengthen critical support for students.

Previously, Dr. Rafal-Baer served as Chief Operating Officer of Chiefs for Change. She built the organization from a start-up to a high-impact nonprofit, raising over $110M in philanthropic funds, and developing core programming and initiatives, including the Future Chiefs and Women in Leadership program. She provided intensive technical assistance, direct systems support, coaching, and strategic advising support to state and district leaders and their leadership teams across the nation on topics including strategic planning, policy changes, finance and operations, equity initiatives, school improvement, human capital, crisis management, and organizational development.

Dr. Rafal-Baer began her long career in education nearly twenty years ago as a special education teacher in the Bronx, NY. She previously served as Assistant Commissioner of the New York State Education Department, where she was responsible for the strategy, management, and implementation of teacher and leader initiatives, overseeing more than $150M in federal funds. She currently sits on the national board of Blue Engine; the national board for the Association of Marshall Scholars; and the advisory committee for the Center for Education Policy and Research at Harvard University. In 2020, Dr. Rafal-Baer was appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Education to a four-year term to the National Assessment Governing Board. In 2022 she was named a Pahara Fellow.

Dr. Rafal-Baer graduated summa cum laude from the George Washington University with a B.A. in Psychology and holds a dual M.S. from CUNY: Lehman College in Special Education and Childhood Education. She also holds a Master of Philosophy in Education Research, and a Ph.D. focused in comparative education policy from the University of Cambridge, where she was a Marshall Scholar.